Buhari faces legitimacy crisis

  • Pressure mounts over default in social contract with Nigerians


This is not a good time for President Muhammadu Buhari who has been on medical vacation in London, the United Kingdom, since May 7, 2017. The President’s protracted stay off from the country has been generating demands for his resignation and subsequent mass uprising challenging the legitimacy of President Buhari to continue in office. Nigerians whose mandate President Buhari is holding in trust have organized themselves, making demands for the utility of the mandate or ceding the mandate to someone else for effective utilization. This has been the message of an array of civil society organizations in Nigeria, led by Charlie Boy (Opute), advocating that President Buhari should either resume duty and put the peoples mandate to use or he resigns.

Universally, two major social instruments in the science of politics – legal and legitimate – give credence to the establishment and sustenance of the authority or powers of a leader, particularly, elected president, governor or lawmaker. The legal status is derivable from the constitution or established laws; while the legitimate status is derivable from the people, who in majority decisions, entrust their mandate to their representative(s) in government within the state system.

Legitimacy represents the engine house of state/citizens relations or medium of government interface with citizens of the country on whose mandate the president occupies office.

The Nigerian people entered into a social contract of governance with President Buhari in the 2015 Presidential election. Unfortunately, ailment has kept the president out of office for long.

First, President Buhari had in a letter dated January 18, 2017, informed the Senate that he was proceeding on a 10-day vacation in London. Towards the expiration of that request, the president demanded for an extension. Thereafter, President Buhari returned to Nigeria after spending 49 days on vacation in London, the United Kingdom.

President Buhari proceeded on another medical vacation on May 7, 2017, currently accumulating to 97 days, as at the time of this report, and will be spending 100 days on vacation on Monday, August 14, 2017.

Accordingly, in the first seven and half months, from January 7 to the second week of August 2017, accumulating to 223 days, the president has spent 146 days on vacation; and the resumption date is not yet in sight.
Several stakeholders in the Nigerian project are becoming worked up that the social contract President Buhari has with the Nigerian people is under severe threat; this degenerated into  the complicated concerns  being expressed in the polity by actors in civil society.

President Buhari appealed for the votes of Nigerians to provide good governance, the people accepted the appeal and voted him, in majority, into office. As at the time the protest began, the president was not performing the functions of governance in accordance with the social contract established to last between 2015 and 2019.

The people have, apparently, organized to ask questions on the legitimacy of President Buhari to honour the social contract he has with them predicated on their mandate in 2015 which is expected to terminate in 2019. The president is currently not upholding that social contract yet it is not 2019. Accordingly, the protest and populist demand is germane within the context of state/citizens relations.

It is curious that principal beneficiaries of the existing status quo has become engrossed in palpable fear of job loss, thus, declining the acceptance of the realities in the polity. It is appalling that certain state actors have become lost in morass of distractions and explanations.

Some state actors have put up strong defence, leaning on the law or inherent prescriptions of the constitution. However, the law did not elect President Buhari into office; the Nigerian people elected him. The law simply regulates behaviourals of state actors. Yet, the people derive the power to protest from the same law or the constitution being used in defence by the state actors. Thus, the protesters have a point of convergence, both in legality and legitimacy, to do what they are doing, making demands on the president on the perception that the social contract they have with him is being defaulted or under threat of being breached.

The Nigerian Senate, which the protesters approached on the controversial issue, subtly dissociate the federal lawmakers from the movement to remove Buhari from office, articulating that the President has not breached the constitution.

More so, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, was gathered to have contended that the president has done no wrong to warrant his resignation. He had told those demanding the resumption or resignation President Buhari to provide legal and constitutional evidence why the president should resign from office on account of ill-health.

Lai Mohammed was also gathered to have stated that the president requested for “indefinite vacation” and has fulfilled the requirements of the constitution.

 “There is no provision in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stipulates that a president who is on medical vacation for six months or more must resign from office,” the Information Minister was cited to have had argued; remarking that the president is not incapacitated in anyway.

Unlike in Cuba where late Fidel Castro quit office after he fell at a meeting of the Military High Command, Lai Mohammed seemingly lost tract with history when he was said to have  challenged the protesters to name any president in the world who resigned on account of health issues.

Meanwhile, there is a common denominator linking both divides in the polity. The contentious issue is that President Buhari is sick and the president has admitted this reality. Sickness is a natural phenomenon, not man made or a choice made by President Buhari at this time of his life.

 Invariably, President Buhari is not prolonging his vacation in UK out of self will but he is constrained by nature. He will definitely prefer the other side of life (good health) if he has control over nature.

The missing link, however, is that the managers of the President seem to lack professionalism in engaging the people or responding to populist demands. The reality is that the present situation of President Buhari calls for understanding, sympathy and solidarity of all stakeholders in the polity, including the President, himself.

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